Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fringe Signings (June 30)

A respectable playoff run for the Tampa Bay Lightning may have opened the eyes of a few people to their team and a guy like defenseman Andrej Sustr might be on their radar for a sleeper defender for next season. In 72 games last year, he picked up 13 assists, ranking 139th in the position in scoring.  On Tuesday, the eve of the opening of free agency, he signed a 2-year deal, worth $2.9 million.  He was scheduled to become a restricted free agent tomorrow, but there is no more worries for the giant blueliner.

Sustr had a decent playoff run, playing in all 26 games for the Bolts, but only picking up 2 points.  Nevertheless, the 24-year old should have gained plenty of confidence and I would imagine that this year's projections should reflect that.

After his signing, Brendan Smith becomes the 114th highest scoring defenseman last season with a deal already in place for the 2016, so he's just deep enough to be a fringe player for next season.  The Red Wings signed the 26-year old defenseman to a 2-year deal, with a cap hit of $2.75 million per season, with the full expectation that he has a full-time job for next year.

In 76 games, he scored 4 goals and 13 points with the Red Wings and there will also be an expectation that he betters those numbers, likely with a few more minutes per game.

He has been floating around for a while now, so this should be his time coming up, as he can sneak into a great roster spot, among a defense corps that may lack that true 2-3 kind of guy.

Bieksa to the Ducks

The Canucks were publicly trying to move defenseman Kevin Bieksa, trying to acquire a 2nd round pick during last Saturday's draft, but the San Jose Sharks were balking at the action.  Also, very publicly, the deal went South and there was no deal to be had.

A few days later, enter the Anaheim Ducks, showing up with a 2nd round pick to next year's draft, looking for some help on their blueline, as it appears that Francois Beauchemin is headed to unrestricted free agency.

2015 2016
To Anaheim POS Age G/W P Cap
Kevin Bieksa D 34 4 14 $4.6 mil
To Vancouver POS Age G/W P Cap
2016 2nd Round Draft Pick

Bieksa's numbers in the 2015 season were definitely sub-par, given the role that he had on the team and the cap hit he was taking up, so a change was instituted and completed on Tuesday.  The Ducks get a grinding defender, with a nasty mean streak and a physical presence to back it up, while the Canucks get a decent draft pick and some cap flexibility.

Salary CapIt is somewhat surprising that the Ducks were able to take on a contract like Bieksa's, without giving up a player or a contract in return.  The Ducks, however, are rocking all kinds of space, under the ceiling, as my count is showing 17 regulars on, leaving six open spaces on the roster, with $21.6 million left to go in cap space.

The Ducks will need all of that, when you have an RFA group, which includes Carl Hagelin and Jakob Silfverberg and you need more top six depth on your team.

The Canucks, on the other hand, are in need of some more quality defense, as they now have two or three spots to fill, plus another depth forward and they only have $8.2 million to spend.  It's not going to be easy.

Saad, the Face of a Blockbuster

2015 2016
To Columbus POS Age G/W P Cap
Brandon Saad F 22 23 52 RFA
Alex Broadhurst F 22 0 0 $643k
Michael Paliotta D 22 0 1 $925k
To Chicago POS Age G/W P Cap
Artem Anisimov F 27 7 27 $3.3 mil
Marko Dano F 20 4 20 $925k
Jeremy Morin F 24 2 6 RFA
Corey Tropp F 25 1 8 $625k
2016 4th Round Draft Pick

The Chicago Blackhawks, may be the team in the worst salary cap position after the Flyers traded away a tagged contract already in this off-season, so they had to do something drastic, before someone else made the decision for them.

On Tuesday, the day before the frenzy, they struck a deal with former division rivals, the Columbus Blue Jackets, which involved seven players and a pick.  The centerpiece of the deal being forward Brandon Saad, who was a huge part of the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup win and who was also entering into restricted free agency and a likely target for an offer sheet at the drop of a hat.  Saad and a couple of prospects, including NCAA signing, defenseman Michael Paliotta, are now on their way to Columbus and in return comes a package, which includes veteran centre Artem Anisimov, sophomore-to-be winger Marko Dano, former Blackhawks draft pick and current RFA-to-be Jeremy Morin, forward Corey Tropp and a mid-round draft pick.  A hefty deal, no matter which way you slice it.

Saad may not be the highest scoring guy coming out of the Chicago system, but there is little argument that he does a lot of things right, at both ends of the ice, which makes him that target for an offer sheet, if the Blue Jackets don't sign him before the market opens.

In return, the Blackhawks get a choice group of talent, some of which will be groomed to do some replacing of some of the talent that will be on the way out over the next few days.  Anisimov has developed into a good bottom six centre, while Dano has some top six upside, as does Morin, while Tropp is still finding his groove in the league.

This deal will reflect well upon the Blue Jackets, especially when it comes to their projections for next season, but those won't be out of for a little while yet.  All I can hint at is that I'm looking at this deal favourably for Columbus.

Salary CapThe Blackhawks are still in cap ceiling hell, as by my count, the Blackhawks have five necessary spots to fill and only $2.8 million to do it in.  It seems highly unlikely that a guy like Patrick Sharp will indeed be around, but who knows?  Someone else could draw the short straw, due to outside interest.

The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, have six total spots they could fill and $15.7 million to do it in.  That's a huge discrepancy between the two teams.

Jets Sign Stafford

The Winnipeg Jets saved forward Drew Stafford from officially going into unrestricted free agency on Tuesday, signing him to a new 2-year deal, reportedly worth $8.7 million.

Stafford was acquired by the Jets in the same deal that brought Tyler Myers to town and both have fit in quite well with the culture of the team.

In Winnipeg, he did quite well, scoring 9 goals and 19 points in 26 games, giving him a total between the teams of 18 goals and 43 points in 76 games.  He finished ranked 109th among all forwards, a little lower on the depth chart for most poolies, but he was playing on a pretty awful Sabres team at the start of the year.

New section for the big free agent signings, we'll see how this works.

If I'm projecting Stafford now, I would take into account his numbers with the Jets, giving his projection a boost, while another boost may be in order, since the Winnipeg Jets are going to be an exciting team for next season.  I don't think Stafford is really going to light up the league, at this point, but he has been a very reliable source of points over the last few years, but you don't want to pick him too early.  He's the kind of player that works much better as a potential bargain.

Flames Officially Add Hamilton

It would have been interesting, if Dougie Hamilton and his restricted free agent status would have been tested tomorrow, if he made it to restricted free agency. Hamilton was a threat to Boston, through the offer sheet process, and could have very well have been a target, even after his rights were acquired by the Calgary Flames at the draft.

Nevertheless, the Flames saw to it that there was no threat, signing the future franchise defenseman to a 6-year deal, reportedly worth $34.5 million.  This works out to be a $5.75 million cap hit per season, the highest on the Flames blueline for the coming 2016 season.

The 22-year old led all Bruins blueliners last season with 10 goals and 42 points in 72 games last season, which was good enough for 22nd among all defensemen in pool scoring.

At only 22 years old, there is definitely some growth in his game to come.  The question quickly becomes, how much growth?  Well, a new team in a new conference, it may come as a shock to the system initially, so I won't be too high on him, when it comes to projection time, but he'll see a slight increase.

Maybe the better question becomes, "who is going to give up their minutes?"  The seven defensemen the Flames have (Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland and Kris Russell, in order of cap hit) will all want their share of the ice-time pie.  This could truly be the year, where Bob Hartley wins the Jack Adams, shuffling the hot hand around.

Jones Flipped to San Jose

The Boston Bruins and their cap-strapped business was able to flip goaltender Martin Jones, who they acquired in the deal that sent Milan Lucic to Los Angeles, turning him into a 1st round pick and an NCAA prospect.

2015 2016
To San Jose POS Age G/W P Cap
Martin Jones G 25 4 15 RFA
To Boston POS Age G/W P Cap
Sean Kuraly F 22 0 0 USD
2016 1st Round Draft Pick

The Sharks, who are in need of a starting goalie, after they dealt the rights to Antti Niemi to Dallas, appear to be taking a shot at Jones, someone they have seen before, as he played for their division rival from across the state.  Sending a 1st round pick suggests that they have a lot of faith in Jones, so it looks like this could be the deal that gives them their starting goalie next season.

First things first, however... they will have to sign him to a new deal, as he is going to be a restricted free agent, starting tomorrow.

Buyout Period (June 30)

Today was the last day to put players on unconditional waivers for the process of being bought out and the Carolina Hurricanes dropped a big bomb on their roster, putting forward Alex Semin on it.  Semin was exceptionally poor in 2015, scoring only 6 goals and 19 points in 57 games with the Hurricanes, while carrying a cap hit of $7 million for the year.  It's no wonder his contract is being bought out.

The math on this buyout appears to be very easy, as the Hurricanes will have $2.333 million on their budget for the next six seasons, as he had three years left on his deal.  That is a pretty solid cap savings thought, $4.667 million for the first few years of this buyout.

It really was no wonder that the Washington Capitals were never comfortable signing him to anything longer than one year.

Maybe in somewhat of a surprising move, the Florida Panthers added forward Brad Boyes to the list of players to be bought out, as he was still pool worthy last season, picking up 14 goals and 38 points in 78 games with the Cats last season, ranking 137th among forwards.  He could be a sought after player, when free agency hits tomorrow, as he can put the puck in the net.

Buying out Boyes will cost the Panthers under $1 million for each season, this season and next, according to the calculator.

Monday, June 29, 2015

An immediate Impact in the Hockey Pool?

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is supposed to be a "generational" draft, where the class is supposed to be exceptional from top to bottom. We won't know for 10 years or so, just how exceptional this class really is, but for us hockey poolies, we are more worried about the now, more than the what has happened.

Since there are some rumblings about winning money for your rookies next season, I think there is no better time to start dissecting what the rookie classes have done already and what the Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel led class might do in the upcoming season.

The 2014 class didn't look like a bad one on paper, but only one player taken in that draft played an entire season, the number one pick overall, Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad.  Ekblad had an incredible year, voted upon as the Calder Trophy winner, after a 39-point season from the blueline.  Only two other players had a cup of coffee in the league from the 2014 draft, Boston's David Pastrnak played in 46 games, had 27 points, and Leon Draisaitl of the Oilers, he played in 37 games with 9 points, before heading back to juniors.

The 2016 Calder Trophy race could be full of 2014 draftees, like Sam Reinhart in Buffalo, Sam Bennett in Calgary, Michael Dal Colle on Long Island and/or Jake Virtanen of the Canucks.  All top players taken last year, all could turn pro.

The 2013 draft class had a little bit more traction in year one, as the 2014 season featured four full-time players for their NHL clubs, led by Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado, Sean Monahan in Calgary, Valeri Nichushkin in Dallas and Seth Jones in Nashville.  Florida's Alexander Barkov, Carolina's Elias Lindholm and Buffalo's Rasmus Ristolainen featured well in the year as well, getting their cups of coffee.

We are still waiting on Arizona's Max Domi, Winnipeg's Josh Morrissey and Detroit's Anthony Mantha from this class as well, possibly making a run at the trophy as well.

The lockout-shortened 2013 season made for some late debut's for an NHL career, but there was some new full-time help in that 2012 draft class.  Edmonton's Nail Yakupov and Montreal's Alex Galchenyuk, each registered a 48-game season, while Buffalo's Mikhail Grigorenko and New Jersey's Steffan Matteau got their long-ish looks.  It was a short season to pick and choose the young players, but a few did make their mark.

Speaking of the Oilers, they acquired the 4th overall pick in that draft, who still has his rookie status, defenseman Griffin Reinhart, he has yet to make an impression on the NHL.  Defensemen come around a bit longer, so it could be getting close to his time now.  Tampa Bay's Slater Koekkoek is also in the same boat, coming along on the blueline, so watch out for him too.

Since I have the data handy, let's have a quick peek at the 2011 draft class as well.  Four 1st round picks jumped in with at least 62 games in the 2012 season, Gabriel Landeskog of the Avalanche, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers, Sean Couturier of the Flyers and Adam Larsson of the Devils all played the majority of the year.  A 5th round pick in Chicago's Andrew Shaw played in 37 games and look at him now.

Are we still waiting for anyone in this class?  The highest pick with rookie status still is Colorado's Duncan Siemens, the 11th overall pick, still can play for the Calder Trophy in 2016, as he is still 21 years old today.

There are plenty of possibilities for the 2015 draft class and with the lack of increase in the salary cap ceiling, there may be an increasing need for some entry-level talent on some NHL rosters, as they could deal with all the performance bonuses after the year, if they were to go over the cap ceiling.  Just how many of these kids will make their NHL clubs?  You would have to think that the top two are going to be locks, it will be a game of hit-and-miss, as we go down the line.

Don't get your hopes up too high on the 2015 class, as there is still plenty of talent that is coming in late or undrafted from the NCAA, which could be better bets for rookie points.

Pool Worthy RFAs Not Qualified

This list is going to be short, no matter how you slice it. Most players that are pool worthy, should be considered as regulars. The Vancouver Canucks did think otherwise on defenseman Yannick Weber, who was 81st among all defensemen in scoring, with 11 goals and 21 points.  He'll go to the free market, starting on Wednesday, open to sign with anyone who would care for his services.

Reports in the evening suggest that the Canucks will be trying to re-sign the 26-year old rearguard, but there is likely a chance that he'll explore the free agent market as well.

Later on, Monday evening, it was announced that the Arizona Coyotes were not going to qualify forward Mark Arcobello, who finished 184th in pool scoring among forwards, barely making the cut as pool worthy last season. He finished with 17 goals and 31 points in 77 games between Edmonton, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Arizona.  He was often on the move last season, so I would have to think that any new deal he would get would give him some stability, but who knows?

The undrafted 26-year old has made quite a few stops already, what's one more?  He would need to get on a pretty decent team for anyone to really consider him pool worthy, unless you're in a really deep draft.

Fringe Signings (June 29)

Early on Monday morning, the word came down that the Pittsburgh Penguins signed defenseman Ian Cole to a new 3-year deal, worth $6.3 million.

Cole finished outside of the pool worthiness of the positional scoring, ranking 104th among all defenders, picking up 5 goals and 17 points in 74 games between St. Louis and Pittsburgh last season.  Cole was certainly more effective after the trade, picking up 8 points in 20 games with his new club, possibly a number to look at more closely at draft time this year.

Right now, I could see Cole as a second pairing defender, which could turn around some better points next season.

The Chicago Blackhawks can still make a few signings before they have to hit the panic button on some trades this Summer, so the announcement of the David Rundblad deal, a 2-year, $2 million deal, shouldn't come as a terrible surprise.

The 24-year old Swede didn't get enough ice-time to be a pool-worthy defender in 2015, playing in 49 games and scoring 3 goals and 14 points, but with Chicago's cap crunch issues, he quickly becomes a fringe signing, looking inward on more minutes.  It's a good deal for the club and not a bad deal for the defenseman, especially since he hasn't been counted on yet for much.

I would keep Rundblad in your notes, even if he is a late depth defender.

At the end of the work day on Monday, the Vancouver Canucks came out with a couple of fringe signings of their own. The earlier of the two, saw forward Linden Vey sign a 1-year deal, reportedly worth $1 million, while the latter of the two, saw goalie Jacob Markstrom sign a 2-year deal, cap numbers not disclosed at the time of writing this post.

Vey may have been less of a fringe signing, since his numbers were less than fantastic in 2015, scoring 10 goals and 24 points in 75 games for the big club, but it isn't like they can't improve from there at all.

Markstrom, on the other hand, will be the team's back-up goalie for next season and it remains to be seen, just how much time he is going to get.  After a stellar season in the AHL, there are going to be some high expectations on him, which should bring him into the conversation at the hockey pool draft.

We might be really reaching here, but a 5-year, $15.85 million deal should say fringe, at least. The San Jose Sharks took care of soon-to-be restricted free agent blueliner Brenden Dillon with this new deal, which will have in their uniform for quite a while, likely expecting better numbers than his 2015 season.  Speaking of which, was 2 goals and 10 points in 80 games, split between Dallas and San Jose.

Dillon has some upside to his game, but with the overall struggles of both teams, his numbers certainly were down.  I'm not too sure how the Sharks are prepared to fare in 2016, so I might be hesitant to put too much stock in Dillon and some of his mates.

Stars Complete Deal with Niemi

The Dallas Stars were definitely serious about getting Antti Niemi under contract for the 2016 season, plus they added a couple more seasons on top, as they came to terms with the 31-year old Finnish netminder, a 3-year deal, worth $13.5 million.

Niemi's negotiation rights were acquired by the Stars from the Sharks at the draft, as a pick went the other way for the privilege and the Stars made the best of what they had, inking the keeper to the new deal.

This deal creates a bit of a goaltending controversy, right off the top, as the Stars already have Kari Lehtonen, who was a workhorse for the team, eating up a lot of minutes, while picking up Niemi, who also plays a lot of minutes, when he's a number one.  Now the crease is crowded in a 1A and 1B situation, a fight that will be interesting to watch in camp.

Last season, Niemi was ranked 11th among all keepers, with 31 wins and 75 points for a Sharks team that wasn't terribly impressive, as a whole.  Still, if he was to have found a solid number one job somewhere in the league, because we all knew it wasn't going to be in San Jose, he still would have been considered a 1st round pick in this year's hockey pool draft.

Now, he is being paired with Lehtonen, at the moment, who ranked better than him in wins and points, picking up 34 wins and 81 points and was 9th among all goalies in pool scoring.

If this pairing does continue into the regular season, both goalies will have their overall projections cut, unless one shines over the other in training camp.  It won't be until their use in training camp, before you will have any sort of indication, who the the number one will be or how their time will be split.  It isn't like Niemi is an aging veteran, he's still well within the ripe ages for his prime.

Buyer beware in Dallas!

Buyout Period (June 29)

From the fringe, the Buffalo Sabres placed centre Cody Hodgson on unconditional waivers for the purpose of being bought out on Monday, as his tenure with the Sabres has been far from what it should have been.  In the 2015 season, he was only good for 6 goals and 13 points in 78 games, ranking him far away from being pool worthy.

He gets a mention for possibly being considered again, as an extreme long shot.

Hodgson had four years left on his deal, each coming with a cap hit of $4.25 million.  His buyout will cost the Sabres a shade under $800,000 per season for the next eight years, but his cap hit, thanks to the War on Ice calculator, will be just over $1 million for the 2016 season.

The Nashville Predators and Viktor Stalberg are about to part ways, as the team put the player on unconditional waivers in this instance as well, with the intention of buying out the last two years of the current contract out tomorrow.

The War on Ice calculator shows that Stalberg's buyout will ding the Predators cap hit at $666,667, both in 2016 and 2017 and then up to $1.17 million in the final two years.

Stalberg only picked up 10 points in 25 games with the club last season and was no longer seen as a viable player in their lineup, especially at a $3 million cap hit.

An interesting turn of events in the buyout process, as the Los Angeles Kings opted to terminate the contract of Mike Richards after he cleared waivers on Monday morning, instead of buying him out, citing a material breach of contract.  Of course, if we don't get much injury information out of the Kings, why should we think we'd get more information about this as well.

There is a belief that this will go through the grievance process, which would explain the lack of information, but as of right now, with the way the paperwork stands, the 30-year old centre is now a free agent and the Kings don't owe him anything and only a recapture penalty would count against the cap for the team.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Buyout Period (June 28)

I would guess that the Los Angeles Kings must have tried to move the contract that Mike Richards had left, five years at a cap hit of $5.75 million per, but that's a hard contract to move, when you're a minor leaguer in the year previous, you play 53 NHL games, scoring 5 goals and 16 points.

If no one was to take him in a trade, giving something back to absorb that contract, then there is a mighty fine chance that Richards will clear waivers and then be bought out.

According to the War on Ice buyout calculator, Richards will be owed money for the next 10 seasons at varied cap hits throughout.  The 2016 cap hit will be around $1.22 million, where it will peak is around $4.2 million, in both the 2019 & 2020 seasons.

The Montreal Canadiens were also getting in on the waiver wire act, in preparation for a buyout, as veteran winger P-A Parenteau ended up being the victim of a salary cap crunch. The Canadiens are looking to buyout the final year of his deal, where he is owed $4 million.

Last season, Parenteau didn't excite anyone, it would seem, scoring only 5 goals and 22 points in 53 games, falling out of favour of the poolies in the draft and his coaches at the pro level.

This move will open some space up, as the cap hit on this buyout, according to the calculator, will only be worth $1.333 million each year, this and next.

Those are two forwards that fell right out of favour, pretty quickly, as soon as they reached new teams, post-successful years. It will be tough for either of them to bounce back from this, but neither are terribly old and they'll have to commit to some lesser money, in order to get another shot at the big time.  It's not out of the question, by any means, but it certainly will be tough for them.